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Book (peer-reviewed)

Publisher Muwatin (The Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy), Ramallah
ISBN 978-9950-312-51-7


The book focuses on the practice rather than the letter of Islamic law in issues related to family disputes and their legal regulations. Instead of examining the text of legal codes and attempting to assess whether people “obey” the statutes, this book departs from observations on how judges behave in the Gaza courts. It asks how other social actors (the disputants) make use of the court system, and in what ways they learn the idiom of the court (the transition from daily language to the legal)? How through their presence in the legal space may they come to teach each other the “tricks” of the legal system. How and why do the many segments of the legal system connect together (or fail to connect)? And how, by extension, is the legal system connected with the norms, values, and power structure that obtain within wider society? The specific field of anthropology of law helps to uncover discrepancies between the ideological conceptualization of law and its highly differentiated and contextual implementation. The book juxtaposes the claim that Islamic law is rigid, homogenous and fixed with its flexible, heterogeneous and context-bound implementation. In that sense, it shows the reciprocal determination of jurisprudence, gender asymmetries, and personal strategies. In other words, the book suggests that the modern legal system as one of the state’s machineries should not be overemphasized at the expense of the analytical significance of the actors’ agency, including that of the judges.